Haliburton County welcomed children back to summer camps this week after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus.

“Summer has begun and, although we are not as full as we would ideally like, many programs are full or close to full,” said Bruce Dunning, executive advisor at Medeba.

Medeba is located on Kennisis Lake Road in West Guilford and has been operating for 70 years. Dunning has been with the camp for more than 42 of those years. He is transitioning to half-time work this summer from full-time

He added that, as with most places, getting staff was more difficult this year so they are pleased that they have a “great” complement of workers heading into the season.

“I think there is a pent-up demand for kids to get to summer camp as they need the social interaction more than ever and camp is an amazing place for that and more,” Dunning said.

At Camp Wanakita, on Koshlong Lake, which dates back to 1953, senior regional manager camping and outdoor education, Andy Gruppe, said in their spring newsletter that they couldn’t wait to hear the sounds of talking and laughter over the lake again this summer.

“After cancelling our traditional YMCA Wanakita programs in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, we are thankful to be able to bring children and families back to enjoy the activities and fun experiences they know and love,” he wrote.

He said gearing up for their summer camp season, “has not been without tremendous obstacles and we have made some challenging decisions around how we operate this summer.”

They cancelled their day camp programs in favour of positioning staff in overnight camp and family camp positions. “It was a difficult decision, but necessary,” Gruppe said.

In May, they also announced changes to session durations.

“Both of these were critical decisions based on the ongoing staff shortage that camps are experiencing industry-wide. Making these changes will allow us to ensure the health and safety of the campers in our care and program quality. They have always been our top priority and we will not compromise on these priorities.”

He added campers will also see some improvements around camp this summer. While they have been limited in their program offerings over the past two years, Gruppe said the camp team has still been working tremendously hard.

“We are looking forward to sharing the memory and spirit of former camper Grace Lloyd, with the unveiling of Gracie’s Grove, and introducing the first group of campers to this beautiful area in her memory,” The former camper passed away Feb. 3, 2020 after a short illness. She was 14.

“This is going to be a summer to remember,” Gruppe said.

There are just shy of 20 summer camps in the Highlands.